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Strengthening Your Learning
There is no one best way
to learn. As unique individuals, we all have different learning styles and preferences.
However, in the course of our lives, we must adapt to a wide range of learning
situations-- and it is highly likely that some of these situations will not
conform to our strengths. The trick is to continually to build on our strengths
while developing other strategies and skills.
The information below provides
explanations for some of the major categories of learning styles and suggests
strategies for effective learning.
Please note that some of
these strategies are "visual" by nature and may not be appropriate
for students who have visual disabilities. However, these links are made available
so that all students may have the option of considering the use and value of
these strategies for themselves.
Visual learners learn best from what they see: diagrams, flowcharts,
time lines, films, and demonstrations.
- Add diagrams to your
notes whenever possible.
- Organize notes
so that you can clearly see main points and supporting facts and
how ideas are connected.
- Use visual
organizers (graphs, charts, symbols, etc.) to help show relationships
- Color-code notes to
help you to see categories of information
- Use visualization as
a way to study/prepare for tests and to retrieve information. (See
gain the most learning from reading, hearing spoken words, participating in
discussions, and explaining things to others.
- Attend lectures and
- Ask questions
to hear more information.
- Read the textbook and
highlight no more than 10%. (See Annotating Text.)
- Record lectures.
- Rewrite your notes
and add what you missed from the tape.
- Recite or summarize
information. (See Chunking.)
- Talk about what you
learn. Work in study groups.
- Review information
by listening to tapes you have recorded.
Active (or tactual)
learners need to experience knowledge through their own actions either by
"doing" or by getting personally involved in their learning. They
prefer quick paced instruction-- and instructors that keeps things moving.
- Utilize as many senses
as possible while learning.
- Go to labs, exhibits,
tours, etc. to experience the concepts being learned.
- Try out example problems
- Study in a group.
- Relate the information
to concrete examples as you read or listen in lectures.
- Think about how you
will apply the information being presented. (See Cognitive
- Pace and recite while
- Act out material or
design learning games.
- Use flash
cards with other people.
- Teach the material
to someone else.
understand information best when they have had time to reflect on it on their
own (at their own pace).
- Study in a quiet setting.
- When you are reading,
stop periodically to think about what you have read. (See
- Don't just memorize
material; think about why it is important and how ideas are related. (See
- Write short summaries
of what the material means to you.
prefer concrete, specific facts, data, and detailed experimentation.
- Ask the instructor how
ideas and concepts apply in practice.
- Ask for specific examples
of the ideas and concepts. (See Questioning.)
- Brainstorm specific
examples with classmates or by yourself.
- Think about how theories
make specific connections with the real world.
Theoretical learners are more comfortable with big-picture ideas, symbols,
and new concepts.
- If a class deals primarily
with factual information, try to think of concepts, interpretations, or theories
that link the facts together.
- Because you become
impatient with details, take the time to read directions and test questions
before answering, and be sure to check your work. (See Test-taking
- Look for systems and
patterns to arrange facts in a way that makes sense to you. (See Visual
- Spend time analyzing
the material. (See Questions.)
thinkers find it easiest to learn material presented step by step in a logical,
ordered progression. They can work with sections of material without fully understanding
the whole picture.
- Choose highly structured
courses and instructors.
- If you have an instructor
who jumps around from topic to topic, spend time outside of class with the
instructor or a classmate who can help you fill the gaps in your notes. (Use
mapping techniques for taking notes.)
- If class notes are
random, rewrite the material according to whatever logic helps you to understand
it. (See Cornell notes)
- Outline the material.
Holistic (right brain)
thinkers progress in fits and starts. They may feel lost and unable to solve
problems, until they can see the big picture and the relationships between ideas.
They need to make sense of details. They tend to be creative.
- Recognize that you
are not slow or stupid.
- Before reading
the chapter, preview it by reading all the subheadings, summaries, and any
margin glossary terms.
- Instead of spending
a short time on every subject every night, try immersing yourself in just
one subject at a time.
- To concentrate on one
course at a time, take difficult subjects in summer school or when you have
fewer courses. (Warning: Make sure you have enough time to study and to prepare
projects and papers. The same amount of material is covered in a shorter time
in summer and inter-session classes.)
- Relate subjects to
things you already know. Ask yourself how you would apply the material. (See
- Use maps
and visual organizers to help yourself get the
Adapted in part from a
web site developed by Richard M. Felder and Barbara A. Solomon, North Carolina
State University at: www2.ncsu.edu/unigy/lockers/users/f/felder/public/ILSdir/styles.htm
Developed by Meg Keeley
Office, Bucks County Community College
With funding from the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education
Designed and Produced by Chimera Studio
Copyright 1997 Bucks
County Community College. All rights reserved.